- The 2020 Chevrolet Corvette is the first mid-engine Corvette ever.
- It has a naturally aspirated V8 between its axles that makes nearly 500 horsepower.
- Starting MSRP for the mid-engine Corvette is $US58,900. But after options, my loaner came out to $US80,315.
- Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.
The person walking their dog pumped a fist triumphantly into the air upon seeing my Rapid Blue 2020 Corvette loaner drive by. So did a driver in their brand-new Corvette, going the opposite way on I-80. Another driver in an oncoming red Ferrari 488 flashed their lights in greeting.
Wherever you go in the new Corvette, that will be the standard reaction â€” for a while, at least, until everyone calms down about the car a bit.
That’s because the new Corvette is exciting, and it’s a seismic shift from any other Corvette in history. America’s Sports Car has finally landed in the form of the mid-engine supercar â€” an idea that’s been in the works since the late 1950s, but never actually came to be.
That is, until now.
The mid-engine Corvette is no longer a myth, no longer a tall tale. This is the real thing, designed to go toe-to-toe against the other midship sports cars and supercars that command much, much higher price tags.
Unlike some of the mid-engine options from Italy or Britain, however, the mid-engine Corvette isn’t merely a noisy, one-trick track pony. It calms down into everyday civility, broadening the number of places you can actually use it.
The 2020 Corvette: Folklore no more
Since 1953, the Corvette has been Chevrolet’s two-door, two-seater sports car. For the first seven generations, it used a traditional front-engine setup, where the engine was located in front of the driver.
For the current and eighth generation, also known as the “C8,” the Corvette finally went mid-engine, tucking its power source behind the driver and between the front and rear axles. Rumours of the Corvette going mid-engine have been swirling for decades. With the C8, they finally became true.
Mid-engine setups are generally seen as the more naturally performance-oriented ones. Ferrari, Lamborghini, Porsche, and McLaren choose not to use the tired, old front-engine setup seen in both your Ford Fusion and the Corvettes of years past. Mid-engine cars are praised for their balance and handling, since most of their weight isn’t located at one extreme end.
For lifelong Corvette fans and enthusiasts, the move to midship is a controversial one â€” added to the fact that the C8 Corvette will not offer a manual transmission. Primarily, the reason for dropping the stick had to do with demand.
When the C7 Corvette launched as a 2014 model, about half of its customers optioned it with a manual transmission. By the end of the C7’s production run, however, the number had shrunk to only 20%. That, according to Car and Driver, was enough to convince General Motors’ money team to axe the manual option on the C8 altogether.
You’ve only got yourselves to blame for this.
Details and safety ratings: An all-American V8
Cheer up, though. The C8 has plenty of other good stuff, like its naturally aspirated V8. Most automakers don’t offer that anymore!
Packed between the base C8’s axles is Chevrolet’s LT2 engine: a 6.2-litre V8 that produces a claimed 495 horsepower and 470 pound-feet of torque. All of that is sent to the rear wheels via an eight-speed dual-clutch transmission. The automaker quotes a sub-three-second time to get from 0 to 60 mph when the base car has the $US5,000 Z51 Performance Package.
Overall, the C8 measures 15.2 feet long, 6.3 feet wide, and four feet tall. Its dry weight â€” meaning its weight without onboard consumables such as cargo or people â€” comes to 3,366 pounds.
Because the engine is now no longer in the nose, the C8 has two trunks: one in the front and one in the back. The front trunk will fit a pretty average-sized carry-on suitcase, while the rear trunk is much longer and will fit a set of golf clubs, according to Chevrolet. Why this is a unit of measurement is beyond me.
Anyway, Chevrolet quotes the C8 to have 12.6 total cubic feet of cargo volume. This is slightly less than the Porsche 718 Cayman, which is also mid-engined and has a combined cargo volume of 14.9 cubic feet from its two trunks, according to US News.
The Environmental Protection Agency estimates the C8 to return 15 mpg in the city, 27 mpg on the highway, and 19 mpg combined. Corvettes, like many sports cars, generally aren’t rated for their crashworthiness.
What stands out: The steering, suspension, and transmission are your friends
The new Corvette’s steering is wonderful. You only need about five seconds with the car to realise this. Tight, beautifully weighted, and acute, the C8’s steering fills you with confidence. It builds trust, relaying gobs information up through your fingers and obeying even the smallest inputs.
This particular loaner came with the $US5,000 Z51 Performance Package, which adds performance brakes, suspension, and exhaust, as well as a special rear spoiler. There was also the $US1,895 Magnetic Ride Control option: GM’s highly adaptive suspension system that uses magnetically controlled shock absorbers.
Combined, these options give the C8 a solid and stiff-feeling ride, certainly less bouncy than the Z51-less C8 I tried out in 2020. It’s not a ride that will shake your spine to pieces like it has something to prove, but rather one that clearly articulates the road surface and how the car is responding to it. There’s no body roll â€” or lean â€” to speak of.
The road feedback doesn’t mean the C8 is murderous on your bones over long distances, though. It cruises comfortably, its cylinder deactivation system keeping four of the eight cylinders inactive in order to save fuel.
When that happens, the Corvette putters along quietly, its dual-clutch transmission keeping the engine’s revs low in eighth gear. That dual-clutch, despite being a sore spot for many purists, is in fact quite good.
It’s relentlessly fast on upshifts and snappy on the way back down. DCTs, as I’ve experienced them elsewhere, typically don’t handle stop-and-go traffic very well. They shudder all the way down, jerking to match the right gear with the steadily decreasing speed of the car.
The C8’s DCT is comparatively slick, shudder-free in traffic, and smooth as glass. So smooth, in fact, that you can barely feel it working in the car’s comfort mode. Under harder driving I sort of wish the transmission made its presence a bit more known, but during around-town cruising, it was ideal.
The removable roof is nice, too. It unclips easily and you can store it in the trunk, though you sacrifice rear trunk space if you do.
What falls short: An all-consuming interior
When Chevrolet set out to build the new C8, it really seems like the intent was to remake the whole thing. The engine got moved. The base version is slightly more powerful. There’s no more manual transmission. No more chrome wheels.
And the interior went from this, which was just fine and serviceable:
As you can see, the big change was moving all the climate buttons to the giant, driver-oriented ridge thingy that sweeps down the centre console like a spine and cleaves the cabin in two.
Here’s a closer look at it.
In the Corvette, the interior was one place that needed no revamping. It was just fine in the previous-generation C7.
The very best thing I can say about the new one is it looks like Star Trek cosplay. The worst I can say is that it’s claustrophobic. From the driver’s seat, I felt consumed, swallowed up by the tallness of the centre console, the high window line and the narrow, steeply raked windshield.
Outward visibility is not great, which did not help to alleviate the overwhelming sense of mass that came from sitting in the new Corvette. The car is and feels big to drive. Intellectually, I knew I could fit it on the tight, twisting roads of Bucks County, Pennsylvania. Emotionally, I’d still cringe a bit when there was an oncoming car.
As a passenger, you feel quite isolated from the driver â€” cut off completely â€” and your own climate control buttons aren’t even facing you. It’s a good interior for two people who are having a fight, I guess.
The C8 also could have used more nighttime testing, if the final product is anything to go by. When driving at night, light from the centre infotainment screen reflects off of the partition behind the cabin, which then reflects directly into the rearview mirror. This was also slightly annoying to deal with.
How the C8 Corvette compares to its competitors: The most car for the least amount of money
With a starting price of under $US60,000, it’s tough to find a better bargain out there than the C8 Corvette. You get a 500-horsepower, mid-engined supercar for less than the price of the new BMW M3, and none of the pretentiousness of a Porsche or Ferrari. This is America’s Sports Car, after all. The car with home-team advantage. If you don’t like it, you’re a dirty Commie.
Besides the Corvette, other mid-engine cars for sale today include the Acura NSX, Alfa Romeo 4C Spider, Audi R8, Bugatti Chiron, Ferrari 488, Ferrari F8, Ford GT, Lamborghini Aventador, Lamborghini HuracÃ¡n, Lotus Evora GT, all McLaren models, and Porsche 718 Boxster and Cayman, according to this helpful Car and Driver list.
Unfortunately, all of these cars also either start at well over $US100,000, are down on power, are less daily usable, or some combination of all three.
Among its competitors, the C8 shines. It offers the most mid-engine car for the dollar.
Good luck finding a sub-$US60,000 C8 Corvette anytime soon, though.As of March, base-model cars were “virtually non-existent.” My loaner certainly wasn’t cheap, either.
Sure, the base price was $US58,900, but it also had the: 2LT equipment package ($US7,300) that included a premium sound system, head-up display, heated and ventilated seats, a heated steering wheel, wireless charging, and navigation; Magnetic Ride Control ($US1,895); Z51 pack ($US5,000); GT2 bucket seats ($US1,495); a front-nose lift system ($US1,495); staggered 19-inch front wheels and 20-inch rear wheels ($US995); and Rapid Blue paint ($US500).
In all, the car had $US20,320 in options, bringing the total MSRP to $US80,315. Still less than a 911, however!
Here’s the window sticker, if you’re curious.
Our impressions: The true everyday supercar
Head-on, the C8 is a visual punch to the face. Low, pointy, and wide, it captures the wild essence of great supercar design. Everyone will wave at you. Everyone will be stoked to see it. Smiles all around, and you’ll feel just a little bit famous.
In profile and from the rear, the design flattens out and becomes rather disjointed â€” a gripe overshadowed by the stunning front end.
But as striking as its face is, the C8 is docile. Driving it, you’ll forget the car is mid-engined at all. It handles beautifully as a cruiser, agreeable and quiet, kind on your body over bumps but also not erasing the sensation of road imperfections altogether. It strikes a nice balance.
That tame mood also extends to when you want to push the car a little bit. Oh, there’s power, no doubt about that, and it will do the fast stuff just fine â€” but the C8 doesn’t feel innately hyped-up and ready to go like other sports cars do.
Somehow, what a naturally aspirated V8 packed in behind you is supposed to offer just doesn’t translate to a kick in the back of the head (the good kind) when you really put your foot down. Rather, it feels a little sluggish at low revs.
As a base model, though, it’s clear that Chevrolet left room for what’s coming next. It’s the only explanation for all the tameness. The upcoming performance versions will build on what the C8 already offers, and will likely surpass what they were in the C7 generation when they put down 650 horsepower and 755 horsepower.
I’m speculating, but I wouldn’t be surprised if in two or three years we find ourselves with a 1,000-horsepower, hybrid, mid-engined Corvette for the C8 generation.
But for now, we have the base C8. Even calling it a base model feels disingenuous because the car is so capable. The C8 is easily the most exciting thing this side of $US100,000, and as something to live your normal, everyday life with, it’s pretty tough to beat.
Just hope you like attention.